State AGs urge Bezos to expand sick leave for Amazon, Whole Foods employees

State AGs urge Bezos to expand sick leave for Amazon, Whole Foods employees
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A group of state attorneys general are calling on Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosSpaceX launches first manned space flight from US in nearly a decade Hillicon Valley: Facebook permanently shifting thousands of jobs to remote work | Congressional action on driverless cars hits speed bump during pandemic | Republicans grill TikTok over data privacy concerns Largest tech company CEOs made billions amid pandemic MORE to expand paid sick leave policies for his employees at Amazon and Whole Foods in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The law enforcement officials sent a letter on Wednesday to the Amazon CEO expressing concern that the two companies' sick leave policies are "inadequate to protect the public health during the developing COVID-19 crisis."

While many companies have expanded their leave policies and encouraged sick employees not to come to work, Amazon, which owns Whole Foods, is currently giving only two weeks paid leave to workers who have tested positive for coronavirus or are in quarantine.

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"By limiting paid sick leave to only those employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have been placed into quarantine, the Companies are placing their other employees, their customers, and the public at large at significant risk of exposure to COVID-19," the attorneys general wrote in their letter.

"The Companies’ narrow criteria is particularly insufficient given the realities of the public health crisis, where the lack of access to COVID-19 testing has been widely reported," the group continued. "This would seriously undercut efforts to promote 'social distancing' in order to 'flatten the curve' of infections and to avoid overloading our already strained health care system."

The letter was signed by the attorneys general from 14 states and Washington, D.C.

Jodi Seth, Amazon spokeswoman, said the company remains "laser focused" on caring for its employees.

"As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, we remain laser focused on serving customers and ensuring the well-being and safety of our employees and those they care for," she said in a statement to The Hill. "This is a top priority as they work to provide an essential service to our country."

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Last week, President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE signed a bill requiring employers with fewer than 500 employees to offer paid leave to workers who are being tested or treated for the virus and for those who are caring for sick children.

While those requirements don't cover a company of Amazon's size, the attorneys general on Wednesday asked Bezos to implement the policies for his own employees. They also urged Amazon to set aside funds to offer benefits for the army of gig economy contractors who make deliveries for Amazon.

"Grocery stores such as Whole Foods remain one of the few places where people are regularly congregating in close quarters, and thus it is especially important to ensure that they do everything they can to minimize the risk of infection," the attorneys general wrote. "And with many local stores and businesses closed during this crisis, consumers are relying even more than ever on online shopping."

"Thus, Amazon warehouses and other locations are a significant site for possible transmission of the virus both from worker to worker, and to the general public in homes across our states," they added.

Updated: 10:25 p.m.